The 2014 Beckman Coulter Education Award: Susan Rowland

School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences
University of Queensland

Dr Susan Rowland is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences at the University of Queensland. As a teaching-focused academic, she has a central role in the development and support of high-quality teaching and learning at UQ, including curriculum oversight and reform, student advising, and the nurturing of teaching research by her colleagues.

Susan completed her PhD in Biochemistry at the University of Sydney, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Connecticut. She returned to Australia in late 2006 to conduct research and teach at UQ. She began working in the area of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) during her American Society for Microbiology Biology Scholars residency in 2011. Her research now focuses on teaching and learning activities that help students build content knowledge and professionalism through authentic practice.

Susan teaches biochemistry, molecular biology, genetics, and introductory biology to over 2000 UQ students per year. As she serves a group of students, she tailors her teaching and assessment to best serve her students’ needs.

Susan works with Journalism and Communication faculty to produce and deliver ‘Free Energy Radio’ for her students. This podcast program features interviews with science graduates who they talk about their lives, their work, and how they negotiate their careers. The project brings the world of working scientists to undergraduates; the aim is to reduce students’ fears, and inspire their excitement, about working in science.

To help students get experience in writing and publication Susan developed UQ SURJ, a Science undergraduate research journal written by and for UQ students. Together with her own Honours students, Susan works with student writers to develop their story ideas and mould their pieces into popular science articles for publication in printed and online form. The first edition of SURJ was published in 2012 and two more will be released in 2014.

Susan approaches her scholarly work in Science Education with rigour and intense curiosity and has published eight refereed journal papers in SoTL and co-authored the OLT (Office for Teaching and Learning)-funded Good Practice Guide for Science Communication. She has also made 30 conference presentations and obtained over $350,000 in grant funding for her SoTL projects. She currently heads the ALURE initiative, an OLT National Leadership Project that aims to support and develop academics as they implement large-scale undergraduate research projects in science. The ALURE project has grown out of a suite of collaborative large-scale undergraduate research projects being implemented at UQ.

Susan’s work has been recognised by a Manning Clark House Fellowship, a UQ Teaching Fellowship, a UQ Faculty of Science Teaching award in 2012, and a UQ Award for Teaching Excellence in 2013.

Susan feels that biochemistry is beautiful; “in fact”, she says, “I like to tell my students that biochemistry explains ‘the meaning of life’.” In her teaching, she aims to bring this sense of wonder about the living world to her students. She also aims to honour the diverse skills, interests, and goals that her students bring to the classroom. “If we, as educators, can acknowledge our students’ needs while increasing their knowledge base, skill set, and employability, then we have risen to our responsibility” she says.